Long Bridge Railroad Project: A Look At Plans For New Potomac Bridges


Virginia is pushing ahead with a $2 billion plan to expand freight and passenger rail service across the Potomac River in hopes of alleviating a growing bottleneck at a bridge that has spanned the southern and northeastern United States for more than a century connects.

The plan calls for a new double-track span parallel to the Long Bridge, which will serve as the main line for trains traveling south of the nation’s capital. The new span between Washington and Arlington would double train capacity to support trade and increased demand for passenger trains along the busy line East Coast Corridor.

The project will also add a pedestrian and bicycle bridge between Arlington’s Long Bridge Park and the district’s East Potomac Park, creating a walkable connection from the growing Crystal City neighborhood to the Southwest Waterfront area. The project should be completed by 2030.

Virginia this month unveiled design concepts for the project, the state’s latest move to expand rail options statewide. It’s part of a $3.7 billion deal Virginia inked with Amtrak and CSX last year to increase capacity, expand routes to new cities, and ease rail connections to the nation’s capital.

Virginia is moving forward with a plan to build a new double-track railroad bridge across the Potomac River, connecting Arlington and the district. (Video: Virginia Passenger Rail Authority)

The new railroad bridge will be built with many features of the existing span, including its structure, material and shape, with steel girders and similar pier spacing, according to preliminary site plans approved by the National Capital Planning Commission this month. The plans also call for the use of Ashlar stone cladding for the bridge abutments and abutments and walls near the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which officials say will be compatible with the freeway’s character.

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The bridge will be constructed 40 feet north of the existing crossing. Michael Weil, an urban planner at the NCPC who has review authority for the project, said the design will complement the existing Long Bridge “without overpowering its historic character.”

The project is in the early planning phase, with construction scheduled to begin in 2026. The Commission’s approval gives an important green light to keep the project on schedule for completion in eight years. The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority, formed two years ago to manage rail expansion programs, oversees the Long Bridge project with funding from the state and Amtrak. The agency also seeks government infrastructure grants.

“All of these things come together to demonstrate that this project is real and happening,” said Michael McLaughlin, the agency’s chief operating officer.

The project within the 1.8-mile corridor comes along with other parts of Virginia’s multibillion-dollar railroad business, including construction of a fourth track south of Washington; the acquisition of hundreds of miles of track and right of way; and numerous other improvements in the I-95 corridor and across the state. Adding capacity across the Potomac is a critical component to the state’s ambitions to double passenger rail travel on the Washington to Richmond corridor within the decade.

Virginia is adding two new Amtrak round trips to its rail service

Adding two tracks to create a four-track crossing of the Potomac will allow the state to handle more commuter and intercity rail service, as well as an increase in freight traffic, for decades to come, officials said. The expansion will allow Virginia to significantly improve Amtrak and AER commuter services while separating passenger and freight trains, which officials said will improve service reliability.

Concurrent with designing the Long Bridge project, Virginia is moving ahead with designing a $185 million project to add a fourth track approaching the Alexandria Bridge that officials said is being funded. Further south there are plans to add a third track from Franconia to Occoquan and a rail bypass at Franconia-Springfield which will allow trains to run when other trains are serving the AER station.

The approval of the preliminary plans for the Long Bridge comes in the same month. Virginia added more Amtrak service between DC and the eastern and western portions of the state. With the additions Amtrak operates eight federally funded return flights daily from Washington. The plans call for more intercity and commuter service in 2026 after the fourth track is completed in Alexandria, with more trains in 2030 after the Long Bridge is expanded.

“Not only are we getting more trains, we’re going to get more trains at different times of the day,” McLaughlin said, adding that late-night and two-way trains outside of normal commute times will give Virginians the opportunity to go to DC for an evening sporting event or a Dinner.

For more than a century, the Long Bridge has carried freight and passenger trains across the Potomac River between Crystal City and the district’s Southwest Waterfront. The bridge’s two-track configuration creates a bottleneck as trains funnel from three tracks to two, slowing the movement of freight and passengers.

When the NCPC reviewed the preliminary design this month, planners praised the bridge’s design. Commissioners and some residents and leaders were calling for changes to the design of the pedestrian and bicycle bridge, which would align about 25 feet north of the new Long Bridge, they said The planned 14-foot deck would be too narrow to accommodate the expected number of users.

Some proponents have proposed an extension the span to 20 feet to allow more space between through traffic in both directions, in line with other facilities such as the recently built W&OD Trail bridge over Langston Boulevard in Arlington.

Shirlene Cleveland, senior director of the Long Bridge project at the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority, told a commission meeting July 7 that the agency will consider the comments and recommendations before evaluating whether to widen the footbridge.

“Obviously the corridor is very narrow,” she said. “We need to install two bridges between an existing railway bridge and the existing WMATA Yellow Line bridge. So we’ll see what’s possible.”

NCPC Chair Elizabeth A. White said she was generally pleased with the project as planned but urged the agency to consider requests get the pedestrian bridge “right” from a safety point of view.

“It seems that the overall approach is going in the right direction,” she said.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/transportation/2022/07/15/long-bridge-potomac-pedestrian-rail/ Long Bridge Railroad Project: A Look At Plans For New Potomac Bridges

Dustin Huang

Dustin Huang is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Dustin Huang joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: dustinhuang@24ssports.com.

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